SPOKANE, Wash. -A group of people marched from Salem Lutheran Church to the Spokane County Jail Tuesday, with the hopes of shedding light on a growing issue.
"In the last 14 months, 8 individuals have died while in custody at the Spokane County Jail," reads the description on the events Facebook page. "This is unacceptable."
The Spokesman-Review reports that some of the deaths have been caused by suicide, and drug and alcohol complications.
According to the Review, County officials say they are taking steps to prevent more deaths. In recent months, they have called in a suicide-prevention expert. They have stopped issuing bedsheets to prevent inmates from hanging themselves. And they have launched a program to provide some inmates with buprenorphine, a drug that curbs the symptoms of opioid withdrawal – which can cause life-threatening illness, and drive some people to take their own lives.
But some who attended the march say these issues highlight a larger problem - staffing.
According to the Review, a single corrections officer is often responsible for supervising an entire floor – up to 184 inmates.
Spokane County Spokesperson, Jared Webley told the Review that there are 142 corrections officers on staff at the downtown jail and 66 at Geiger Corrections Center. He said the county commissioners have authorized 25 new officer positions since 2016, but filling those positions has been a challenge.